In Board Performance, Governance
culture and governance

Does your board affect your culture?

I recently asked my Organizational Prof from my alma mater MBA school if there is any literature on how boards can affect culture.

He wrote me a one liner saying ‘nothing worth a damn’. (!)

He was kind enough to follow up with an explanation of why he thought that way. His experience is that boards want CEOs with Vision but don’t recognize that the way a CEO can actually change a culture is via something he calls Emergent Leadership.

And boards don’t ‘get it’.

In my experience most boards believe they do affect a culture, even if it is not really intentional. So is that possible, and how does a board affect the culture of an organization even if non-intentionally? Is it the case that the organization’s culture is part of its brand? Do you have alignment?

I recently had the opportunity to discuss this notion with other consultants who use Policy Governance (by John Carver). The consensus was that yes boards do affect culture via a number of interfaces. These include the policies and limitations they set the CEO, as well as the metrics they choose to monitor and those they choose not to monitor.

Plus the boards’ own culture is a leadership model for the organization. As the old saying goes, change your language and change your culture.

But if you are involved with an organization that is considering changing its culture it is wise to start with ‘what is culture anyway, and how does one define the different types?’

A good place to start is the HBR article from January 2018:


Once you can identify the culture your organization actually has, then you have a place to start.







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